Getting to Know You: Steve Lacaj, Mechanical Engineer

Hailing from New York City, Steve Lacaj is a veteran mechanical engineer boasting more than ten years of experience in the private sector.

After enrolling in a highly regarded post-secondary school in his home state, Steve graduated with a BA in Mechanical Engineering. He then completed his formal education by earning a Master’s degree from the same institution, also in the discipline of Mechanical Engineering.

During his time in the workforce, Steve has occupied several positions at companies both large and small, spearheading multiple major projects, each posing their own unique set of challenges. He specializes in developing new products designed to increase the efficiency and optimize the output of manufacturing-based businesses. He is also proficient in computer-assisted design (CAD) software, and possesses expert-level knowledge in a vast array of contemporary manufacturing processes.

In recent years, Steve has specialized in project management and has leveraged this training to take his career to new heights, all the while improving the quality and reliability of new products and increasing end user satisfaction. Most recently, Steve Lacaj was tasked with leading a team of top engineers in developing a new line of industrial products for a well-known manufacturing concern that operates internationally. The success of this endeavor measurably increased the company’s sales, bringing him renewed recognition for his efforts by his superiors.

When not working, Steve Lacaj enjoys communing with nature by hiking outdoors. Beyond that, he loves spending time with his family, doing so at every available opportunity. He still resides in New York, a for which he holds a great affinity.

What do you currently do at your company?

I’m a senior mechanical engineer, as well as a project manager. That means that I not only possess the technical knowledge necessary to design new industrial products from scratch, but also the training and experience needed to lead my team to reach its designated goals. Basically, depending on the work I’m assigned, it’s my job to manage about ten to fifteen people in planning and making brand new items crafted to fill a void in the manufacturing process.

What was the inspiration behind your career?

Ever since I was young, I’ve had an innate interest in learning how devices work. I used to take apart whatever electronic equipment I found in my childhood home, much to the great chagrin of my parents. That being said, that curiosity paid off for me in the end, because it sparked a lifelong love of engineering which provided the basis for my career. So, ultimately, mechanical engineering is what interested me most. And I discovered that I was good at it, too.

What defines your way of doing business?

I would say that my way of doing business is defined by a commitment to excellence in every phase of product development. I also pride myself on my people skills, open-mindedness, and willingness to learn new things. All of these traits have helped me immensely in advancing my career.

What keys to being productive can you share?

The main key to my productivity is time management, which I had to learn over the course of many years. Truth be told, I’m still refining the process. Some of the more effective time management measures that I’ve implemented so far include committing myself to several hours of deep work in the mornings, as well as assigning specific times throughout the workday for checking and replying to calls, texts, and emails.

What would you tell your younger self?

If I had access to a time machine and could go back to give my younger self some advice, I would say the following: Embrace your interests fully. They will guide you to make the decisions that will shape your life for the better. When doubts creep into your mind, do your best to push them away. You’re on the right track. Just keep applying yourself in school, and everything will turn out alright.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career? 

Always keep learning new things. It’s simple but incredibly important advice.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?

Perhaps it’s because I spend the majority of most days working indoors with industrial technology, but I find great pleasure and peace of mind by taking long hikes in nature. Every time I get a chance, I drive outside the city limits to explore a hillside or beachside trail. I can’t get enough. It also goes without saying that I love to spend time with my wonderful family, whether it be going to the movies, a restaurant, or just hanging out and having a family game night.

How would your colleagues describe you?

I think my colleagues would describe me as affable, approachable, but also very task-oriented and determined. 

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

I’m sure this is a very popular answer, but I would have a rough time keeping on top of my job without my smartphone. It’s how I conduct virtually all my communications with colleagues and clients, and it also serves as my calendar and to-do list. And that’s without even mentioning the wide variety of other functions that it serves.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My mother and father have each been excellent role models for me. I couldn’t ask for better examples to emulate, both in my personal and my professional life.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

I guess the piece of advice that has always remained with me came from a high school shop teacher of mine that I admired. One day, after I botched an assignment to build a tiny but functional catapult, he took me aside and told me, “It doesn’t matter if you fail occasionally. I can tell that you tried your best. And I’ll bet you learned a thing or two along the way. Ultimately, that matters a lot more than the end result of the project itself.”

What advice would you give to those aspiring to succeed in your field?

I suppose the advice I would give to anyone considering a career as a mechanical engineer would be to learn all you can and make sure to keep on top of new developments in the field. More so than many other professions, mechanical engineering exists on the vanguard of technology. As such, information becomes obsolete very fast. If you’re not vigilant, an important new innovation might make itself known and quickly become ubiquitous in the industry without you noticing, and then before you know it, you’ll find yourself behind the proverbial eight ball and rushing to catch up with everyone else.